Humming Honey Bee Update

June 23, 2011

Honeybees are the one of the most important insects to our food system, are their populations declining? Find out here

Honeybees are one of the most important insects to our food system. Currently 80 percent of all insect-pollinated plants consumed by humans are pollinated by honeybees. Their direct value to US agriculture is over 14.5 billion dollars! We rely on honeybee pollination for everything from apples to melons to alfalfa seeds.

Since, 2006 the phenomenon colony collapse disorder (CCD) has plagued the honeybees, and SupermarketGuru wants to keep you up to date. CCD encompasses several symptoms, the most obvious being the complete absence of adult bees, little or no evidence of dead bees inside or near hives, but with adequate food stores still remaining inside. In actively collapsing colonies, where the workforce is diminishing and thus not able to maintain the brood, it is common that older colony members do not consume their feed. What’s the reason? The speculation continues, and ranges from pesticides and fungicides to radiation from cell phone signals, climate change and more. 

This year on average, colonies lost 30 percent, which is similar to the past few years. Beekeepers reported losses of around thirty to 34 percent each winter going back to 2006, when the problem surfaced. USDA is optimistic about the stabilization of the losses. 

The USDA is backing The Bee Informed Partnership, a five-year, 5 million dollar program, that aims to help beekeepers find best practices to keep their colonies together. The goal is to reduce honeybee losses in the U.S. by 50 percent in the next five years. 

How to shop for honey? First, be sure your getting 100 percent pure honey. Read labels on honey jars, make sure the honey is actually honey and does not contain any other added ingredients - pure honey does not need added preservatives as it is naturally antimicrobial. Also be sure to purchase domestic honey, look for country of origin labeling. Not only does this support domestic bee keepers, but also ensures the little pollinators are well taken care of, and that you are getting the best product available. For the time being it may be advisable to avoid imported honey, especially from China because of problems with purity.

Honey is a great, unrefined, natural sweetener, ‘as natural as you can get’ and is also thought to help those who suffer from allergies.

What about organic honey? Organic honey is made from bees that do not / cannot travel to conventionally grown plants, this is considerably harder these days as you never know what your neighbor has on their lawn and you can not control where the bees are going to fly. With that said, there are places that produce truly organic honey, free from pesticide residues and antibiotics, and if you are looking for these products you have to do some research. It is also interesting to mention that organic honey producers have a lesser problem with CCD.

For more information on everything bees, visit The American Beekeeping Federation.